Before day two of the 2011 NFL Draft started I was feeling good about the Steelers drafting a cornerback in the 2nd round as I thought there would be a good chance that one to the Steelers liking would fall after only three cornerbacks were drafted in the 1st round. The first two picks of the 2nd were corners as Ras-I Dowling and Aaron Williams came right off the board one right after the other. I instantly was worried that a few players I had marked as possible targets for the Steelers would not fall as I expected and even started to fantasize about the Steelers trading up 10 or so spots to grab one.
Several more picks came of the board including a few safety types and even Brandon Harris was drafted by the Texans with the 28th overall pick in the 2nd round. The Steelers stood pat and drafted Florida tackle Marcus Gilbert who was surely 1 of their 20 special players they had identified in the prior to the draft. In my final mock I had them selecting Gilbert in the 3rd and it looks like I underrated him.
The Steelers are big on good character and big on position flexibility, Gilbert possesses both of those traits. His father is a retired secret service agent and he always is looking to get better at his craft according to reports. As far as his position flexibility goes, he has played at both tackle and guard spots over the years. He can pull in addition and is very close to center Maurkice Pouncey after playing with him at Florida. Another great trait about Gilbert is his size as he measures in a hair over 6 foot 6 and weighs 330 pounds. Offensive line coach Sean Kugler says he is an athletic player with high energy and will be worked at all four spots on the Steelers line until he finds his spot. It sounds like he could start off as the ultimate swing lineman heading into his rookie season. Time will tell.
After Gilbert was selected you just knew the cornerback position had to be addressed and I was hoping Texas cornerback Curtis Brown would be the pick. I have been high on Brown for some time now as I think he is a great cover corner that could help instantly as a third or fourth defensive back. My hopes were fulfilled as Brown was selected 95th overall and 31st in the 3rd round. New defensive backs coach Carnell Lake described him pretty much as I saw him, a scrappy cover corner that is more quick than fast. Brown has good size to him, but does need to get stronger. I think he will make a great rookie student for the rookie coach Lake.
Even though I had Williams and Harris as possible targets for the Steelers in the 2nd round, it sounds like neither was on the Steelers radar as Lake said they saw Williams as more of a safety and I bet the size of Harris was the reason for his drop into the late part of the second round. The Williams position speculation has long been discussed and it seems the Steelers saw it the same way as well. We might never know their true thoughts on Harris. Looking back at the full attendance of the Steelers coaching staff at the Texas Pro Day, it is now clear they were there to mostly see Brown who ended up being limited in his workout due to the flu, but did what he could. That speaks volumes.
Now three rounds are in the books and the Steelers have addressed all three of their biggest needs heading into the draft with the selection of a defensive end, a tackle and a cornerback. Kevin Colbert and company stayed patient and followed their big board and never panicked or reached. I am glad I am not in charge as I would have done both. Some may say that the Steelers reached with Gilbert, but I do not see it that way. Since the news about Marcus Cannon having a treatable form of cancer surfaced, you knew his stock would drop and that would be one less quality tackle type off the board. It is unlikely that Gilbert would have lasted to the end of round 3 being as he was projected as an early to mid 3rd round pick. He was likely the best player available on the board that fit a need and the Steelers took him.
Brown on the other hand is a steal late in the 3rd in my honest opinion and I am excited the Steelers drafted him. Now the Steelers can head into the 3rd round with their options wide open as I feel the primary needs heading into this draft have been fulfilled. I can\’t wait for the 4th round to start and get Cool Hand Kevin back in action. In Colbert We Trust!